Thursday, June 24, 2010

That was different

So I'd intended to write a post about how I'm busking again, and how lovely, if hot, the Public Garden was the other day, and how I'd actually missed it, but then...

I was waiting for the T at an above-ground Green Line stop, reading a book, when a largeish middle-aged Russian man came up and started talking to me.

"You play wiolin?"
"I have kvestchun for you."

He asked why it is that violinists don't sing and play at the same time, like guitarists and pianists do. He hypothesized that it's because the violin presses on the vocal cords, so we can't. He suggested maybe if we held the violin differently, like putting it on a table, then we could.

I suggested that it might also be because it's much more difficult to play chords on the violin than on either guitar or piano, both of which are designed for such things. (In my case, it's because I'm not that coordinated, but that's a personal problem.) He blinked at me and then continued, at which point I realized this was not destined to be a conversation per se. So I kept nodding and smiling.

Eventually, he went away, and I watched him wander across the parking lot.

Five minutes later, he came back and informed me that I needed to be careful, because so many famous violinists had died young of throat cancer because of the violin pressing against their necks. He specifically cited Paganini and David Oistrakh as examples. Then he went away again.

Blessedly, the train appeared at that point. Of course, I needed to know what he was talking about, so I pulled out my trusty iPhone to check somewhat-less-trusty-but-generally-reasonably-accurate-about-such-matters-Wikipedia.

Niccolo Paganini
lived from 1782-1840 and died at the age of 57 from general poor health, now thought to have been correlated with Marfan syndrome. OK, The Google, blessed be it, shows that Paganini's Facebook page does say he died of throat cancer, as do a few other hits, but I never think Yahoo! Answers is the place to go for reliability. Entertainment, sure.

David Oistrakh lived from 1908-1974 and died at the age of 66 from a heart attack.

Regardless of the facts, it was rather surreal to be warned that I might get throat cancer from my violin.